Monday, December 25, 2006

Goodbye mom

Ten years ago on December 14, 1996

my mom passed from this earthly realm.

Here she is holding me when I was just a few weeks old.

and dad holding me at a slightly older age.

Dad died suddenly when I was just 25

Here we all are on the front steps a few years later.

Goodbye mom.

I wish I could hug you one more time,

and tell you I love you.

Wildlife on our deck

The other night I got these pix of this little guy on our deck.

What are these weird-looking creatures?

It is a Virginia opossum, North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch). The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den. They are solitary and nocturnal: usually slow moving; when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, "playing 'possum."

When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. The lips are drawn back, teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands. The physiological response is involuntary, rather than a conscious act. Their stiff, curled form can be prodded, turned over, and even carried away. Many injured opossums have been killed by well-meaning people who find a catatonic animal and assume the worst. The best thing to do upon finding an injured or apparently dead opossum is to leave it in a quiet place with a clear exit path. In minutes or hours, the animal will regain consciousness and escape quietly on its own.

Its tail is prehensile. A prehensile tail is adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. The opossum can hang from its tail for a short time. Some people think opossums hang from their tails and sleep. They don't. Their tails aren't strong enough to hold them for that long!

Opossums probably diverged from the basic South American marsupials in the late Cretaceous or early Paleocene. A sister group is the Paucituberculata, or shrew opossums. They are commonly also called "possums", though that term is more correctly applied to Australian fauna of the suborder Phalangeriformes.

It lived during the age of dinosaurs: fossil remains have been found from 70 million years ago.

The Paleocene, "early dawn of the recent", is a geologic epoch that lasted from 65.5 ± 0.3 Ma to 55.8 ± 0.2 Ma (million years ago). The Paleocene epoch immediately followed the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous, known as the K-T boundary (Cretaceous - Tertiary), which marks the demise of the dinosaurs. The die-off of the dinosaurs left unfilled ecological niches worldwide, and the name "Paleocene" comes from Greek and refers to the "old(er) (paleo) – new (ceno)" fauna that arose during the epoch, prior to the emergence of modern mammalian orders in the Eocene.

In other words, these awkward-looking critters are extremely good survivors, despite the fact that they are slow-moving, easy prey for predators and frequent victims of roadkill. Their unspecialized biology, flexible diet and reproductive strategy make them successful colonizers and survivors in unsettled times.

The first description of the opossum in the English language comes from explorer John Smith, who wrote in Map of Virginia, with a Description of the Countrey, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion in 1608 that "An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein she lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young."

Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers. Thanks to their lower blood temperature, rabies is almost unknown in opossums.

Monday, December 11, 2006

House party gig

Last Saturday I filled in as keyboard player for a classic rock band at a house party.

Here are the songs we played along with my performance notes:

We played "Sympathy for the Devil" from our "back pocket" list.

The party was lots of fun. It was held in a house in which a performance hall, complete with stage and PA system, had been built into the top floor. There were maybe 100 people, all of whom danced and cheered loudly as we played their favorite tunes.

I hadn't played in months, so it felt good to stretch out.
Although it was a last-minute call, and I had never played many of songs, I enjoy a challenge like this. It stretches me to perform my very best.

It didn't hurt that I came home with a cool $100 in my wallet!

I have made a New Years resolution that in 2007 I will play a lot more music.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A personal dialogue on the future

A dialogue like this goes on inside my head as I contemplate my future:

Age: 60
Health: Excellent
Marital status: Married (VERY happily)
Recent events: Two much-loved men in my family died in the past 2 months; one was 91;

the other 80.

My father died at age 57 (heart disease).

Employment status: Happily & securely employed but just making ends meet.
Retirement savings: Good-sized nest egg from smart savings in previous corporate career. Finance guy says I need to work 6 more years.

The Dreamer: I want to retire earlier than age 66.
The Protector: There’s not enough money.
The Dreamer: There’s not enough time.
The Protector: How can I afford to?
The Dreamer: How can I afford NOT to?

I want to fulfill so many dreams:
spend more time with my wife,
spend more time with friends,
and finally become a part of my grandchildren’s lives.

Create new things:
complete my genealogy,
play music,
write music,
record my own music in a home studio,
scan & document my old pictures,
digitize hundreds of reel-to-reel, cassette tapes, LPs and 45s,
index and convert hundreds of hours of video to digital format,
turn some of them into DVDs complete with voice-over, subtitles, etc.
catalogue family treasures for my grandchildren,
try out living in an intentional community,
discover new places and people
and walk in the woods.
I want to indulge photography,
landscape gardening,
and many more passions.

The Questioner: Aren’t you in good health?
The Dreamer: Yes, but every time Death visits, it reminds me that life is finite even with the best of health.
The Protector: You have to survive.
The Dreamer: Aren’t you confusing means with ends?

The Philosopher:
And so what is the purpose of life anyway?
Is it enough to simply work to pay the bills?
Or is there a larger purpose for my existence beyond mere survival?

The Protector: Most of the world’s people struggle for survival; you should be satisfied with a comfortable life. You should be very conservative in your spending plans, because your comfortable living could vanish in a moment by any number of unforeseen circumstances.

The Dreamer:
That’s just the point. Life is short, and therefore I should make the most of it.
There are no guarantees in life; you must live one day at a time.
I have all these dreams.
Visions of words, music, understanding and communicating.
Communicating to my children, grandchildren and others who love me.

The Questioner: Why is writing so important to you?

The Voice of Experience:
I grasped the meaning of immortality when cleaning out my mother’s attic after her death.
I discovered an old typewritten transcription of the autobiography of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Reuben Philips (1795-1877). He was a circuit riding preacher, school teacher and teacher of singing schools in the mountains of western North Carolina in the early 1800s. Because he set down so much of his life in writing, I realized that he had become immortal. He spoke directly to me from the time of Napoleon because he took the time to put his life down in writing.

Through experiences like these I have come to realize that the only thing that makes me unique is the substance of my thoughts. All of the elements that constitute my physical body will eventually return to the earth from which they were borrowed. Because thoughts precede actions, any accomplishments are the result of thoughts.

I always knew I was different from everyone else. In childhood I thought I might be crazy. My sister was retarded, and the thought often crossed my mind that there might be something seriously wrong with me. I was depressed a good bit of the time. I tried my best to hide my differentness by pretending to be like everyone else but often not quite getting away with it. I was not an unhappy child, but life has progressively improved with age.

I got pretty good at fulfilling other people's expectations,
But staying out of trouble is just not good enough anymore.

Each year I learn to respect myself a bit more,
to give ear to that still small voice.
To appreciate my own wisdom.
To expand my capacity to love,
and to be loved.

Each year allows me to become more truly myself.

A close acquaintance with death has taught me to appreciate life.
A great marriage,

the love and respect of my son,
great friends,
good health,
living in Music City (college town, music central)

enjoying being a new Unitarian Universalist,

becoming more politically active,
working on causes in which I believe,
paying my bills
and enjoying continuous learning.

Now that I re-read the dialogue above,
I realize that I tend to slip into first person when using the Dreamer voice
and third person when speaking with the Protector voice.

My True Self must be the Dreamer;
I should follow her call.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Goodbye Uncle Fred

This morning wifie's favorite uncle, Fred passed away at his home in DeFuniak Springs, FL. He was 80.
Here he was petting his cat with wifie when we visited him last February.
He was wifie's favorite uncle and will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Morning walk

The other day wifie and I took a walk in the unseasonably warm morning sunshine.

We noticed how tiny our little house looks compared with its neighbors.

Our mum is getting gold.

Roger the cat basked happily in the sun upon our return.

Great bumper sticker

Seen outside a Nashville bar on November 25, 2006.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thoughts of mortality

Yesterday in a rare idle moment I explored the calendar on my cell phone.

You can set reminders for future dates.

I wanted to see how far into the future the calendar would go,
so just for fun I set a reminder on my cell phone for my upcoming birthdays.

I'm 60 now.
I set reminders for my 80th,
and 100th birthdays.

Although I know in two years I'll trade this phone for a new one,
it was an interesting exercise.

Holding down the # key rapidly on my phone scrolls rapidly through the months,
and before you know it, a year flashes by,
and then another,
and another...

(Kind of like real life)

It got me to thinking,
thinking about the finiteness of life.

How many cell phones will I go through in my remaining years on this planet?

Even if I live to be 100,
I will have already lived more than half of my years.

This exercise started me thinking.

What is life about, anyway?

The early years seem simple if sometimes hard.

A person must learn;
might choose a mate;
might reproduce;
must earn a living for oneself and one's family;
and raise one's children.

Then comes this long stretch of years
before the end arrives.

One's marriage may crumble;
one's children grow up and make lives of their own,
perhaps giving one grandchildren.

One may remarry and begin a new life;
inheriting a new extended family far away.

One may move to a distant city far away to start anew;
beginning a new career, starting over again from the bottom as a novice,
scratching and clawing one's way slowly back into respect.

One's new spouse may die an untimely death from leukemia as did mine,
leaving one alone as never before.

One may then have the courage to begin a third new life;
inheriting yet a third new extended family in yet another new place;
the adventures seem unending,
and new challenges appear every day.

But one day
it will come to an end.

What is the moral of this story?

Is there any real purpose to life?

Is it just putting one foot in front of the other?

I think the answer lies in the accumulation of knowledge,
which one may pass on to one's descendants
and to all the others who will follow.

in the end
there will be
left of me
my thoughts.

Monday, November 06, 2006

High school bands 1

My high school years were 1960-64.
I began playing in bands in 1963.
The Beatles hit America in 1964.

I am sadly lacking pictures of most of the bands I played with during high school, but I'll share these few items, along with some history of those times and of my life in particular.

I had spent the summer of 1960 in Gordon, Nebraska with my granddad and his wife. Upon my return, my mom told me about a phone call I had gotten from the Youth Fellowship of my church (Dulin United Methodist of Falls Church, VA). They were putting on a play and needed a "combo" for one of the scenes.

[Back in those days, what we call "bands" today were known as "combos" "dance bands," or "dance orchestras." Most popular music of that day was still heavily influenced by the Big Band Era of WW II.]

After a great deal of reluctance (shyness, performance anxiety - you name it), I returned the call. They supplied me with sheet music for "Basin Street Blues." I learned my part and arrived at the church social hall for our first rehearsal. Also present was a stand-up bass, a sax and maybe a trombone. We had all learned our individual parts, so after tuning up, someone counted off "1 - 2 - 3," and off we went. I can't adequately describe the sensation I felt that day, hearing the sound of the small group, making music for the first time. It was my first time to play with a group of people. It was so beautiful that I remembered wanting to stop and listen. The play never was produced, and we never rehearsed again. But that experience had triggered something powerful inside me, something that would influence the direction of the rest of my life. I had awakened my Muse.

After that experience I was left hungry for more. And so I joined the newly-formed high school "dance band, "The Cavaliers," an offshoot of the school stage band, which was itself an offshoot of the marching band, lead by Morris Dubin. I'm sitting at the piano with Mr. Dubin behind me (ready to whack my fingers if I make a mistake).

"The Cavaliers" played one paying gig at the Sadie Hawkins dance for my high school, JEB Stuart. We made exactly $13.00 each that night, the first money I had ever made playing music. I felt like a real pro. I forget if the band disbanded after that, or if I just left. I know it was nerve-wracking for me to keep up with all the sheet music. I've never been much of a sight-reader. I would tape together all the pages of a particular song to avoid the necessity of page-turning in the middle of the song. A long song might therefore stretch from one end of the piano keyboard to the other.

Blogger has stopped allowing me to post pictures, so I'll continue my my story in a new post.

Nearest Book Meme

This is from Prairie Bluestem's blog, who got it from Sarabeth, who in turn got the idea from Fat Doctor:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.
  5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest!
The first book I picked up was a children's book, "Gus was a Friendly Ghost," that didn't have 123 pages.

The next was "Zen - Images, Texts and Teachings," which had the requisite number of pages, but page 123 didn't have five sentences.

Finally I picked up "10,000 Dreams Interpreted," and on page 123 I found five sentences, the fifth being:

"For a mother to carry fresh flowers to a cemetery, indicates that she may expect the continued good health of her family."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cat in a box

Here's our cat Roger obviously enjoying himself in a big box full of styrofoam popcorn.

(Actually I put him in the box, but he didn't complain.) Posted by Picasa

Sushi for me part, 2 of 2

Now we're seated at Sam's. The wait was about 20 minutes, but the food was worth every second.

You write your order on an order form. I'm a long-time customer, so all I write is my name, and Sam knows what I like. Actually it's what he likes to fix, and I don't know one type of sushi from another, but it's always good.

Quite a bargain, huh?

Sam is apparently a big Shania Twain fan.

My bud Jer.

Sam behind the counter

A picture of Sam from a fishing trip. Sam has traveled the world.

We've just been served - about 35 minutes after arriving. The only problem is that I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture of my plate of food!

The crowd at Sam's; he directed us to a table where we can enjoy our lunch and watch others wait. That's bud Jer down the lower right corner making a funny. I took this pic from the very back of Sam's restaurant - so you get an idea of how tiny it is and why it's so crowded.

I stopped at the Arcade on my way back to the office. This is the oldest arcade of its type in the country - it's been here over 100 years.

The Peanut Shop is one of the oldest commercial establishments in Nashville..

Inside the shop.

Wifie's favorite.

A view of the AmSouth building on my way back to the office.

Sushi for me part, 1 of 2

A few months ago I posted a story (entitled, "No sushi for me") about my failed attempt to eat lunch at Sam's Sushi Bar in Nashville. By the time I arrived, it was too crowded. This time, we arrived at 11:10 a.m. Apparently it was a popular day for Sam, because the place was packed.

Here's the story of my lunchtime walk.

It's a sunny, cold Friday - perfect for a walk downtown to Sam's Sushi with a couple of work buddies.

Starting our walk up the sidewalk, following a homeless person by a safe margin.

This little tree is almost barren of leaves, but the way the sun is hitting it illuminates the few golden remnants.

A brilliant Bradford Pear tree meets our gaze.

Entrance to the Muni Auditorium. Notice the time.

I caught this backlit tree outside the AmSouth headquarters building.

Getting ready to cross 4th Avenue at Union.

Another juxtaposition of Nature and man.

The famous Printer's Alley, just off Church St. between 3rd and 4th.

Sam's was too crowded, so we put in our order and wandered down Printer's Alley. At nighttime it's jumpin'; during the day it's deserted.

Sam's sign.

To be continued...

(apparently Blogger only lets you post so many pictures to one blog entry.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Drive from Madison to Eau Claire, WI

After having lunch at the Bavaria Cafe in Middleton, we started out on Rt. 14 toward Spring Green. It was a rainy, miserable day with temperatures hovering in the mid 30s. Every now and then a little frozen precipitation mixed with the rain, which made us a bit nervous. But we made it safely, thanks to wifie's excellent driving skills, which enabled me to take pictures. I would roll down the window and quickly snap a picture before the rain could soak me.

This town is aptly named. Here's a link to a story about their lutefisk dinner, and this link provides background about a fish kill that happened here in 2001.

This residence has a lovely terraced front yard.

We saw many working farms like this one.

and this one,

along with the Fish Worm, which sells BAIT 'N LIQUOR!

About here Blogger stopped accepting my pictures. So this travelogue will continue another day.